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Controversy at Marijuana Business Conference

Chicago was bombarded by cannabis businesses this past week at the storied Hilton Hotel – who proudly displays such famous past guests as Richard Nixon, Queen Elizabeth, The Beatles, and John F. Kennedy.

The show was spread out over 4 halls, and featured display booths from virtually every sector in the industry, notably including: grow equipment of all kinds, packaging, testing devices, edible products, and more vape pens then could possibly be used in the next 10 years.

Steven Levitt, author of “Freakonomics” delivered the keynote address, and compared his self-described struggle to get through college and start a business, with the challenges facing those entering the cannabis industry. While his speech was funny and engaging, no mention of the controversy that follows his theories was mentioned. A closer look at Mr. Levitt’s controversial work can be explored at:

Panel discussions featured topics including: The Rise of the Native Indian Market; The Megalithic California Market; Testing and Labeling; and Lessons We Can Learn from Starbucks – where the discussion focused on how to take an over-roasted burnt-tasting coffee that would be thrown out if served at a truck stop, and turn it into a cultural darling that the public adores without questioning the “bear crapped in my mouth” taste they gladly pay for each day.

One of the more ridiculous comments of the entire session was reported by Marijuana Business Daily (the producers of the event), who quoted Michelle Sexton of PhytaLab and Ken Snoke of Emerald Scientific as saying that the industry should not demand accurate potency testing, and that we should be satisfied with a potency “range.” Such a system would then label cannabis products as “having between 10 and 20% THC or CBD, instead of precisely 15%.”

We can only presume that Ms. Sexton and Mr. Snoke do not manufacture or provide the type of equipment that can accurately test potency and that they are heavily invested into faulty or inferior testing methods, which is why they want to push for an industry standard that accepts a measurement range of plus or minus 100%.

Most attendees of the conference took the position that the industry must continue to act in a responsible manner, and that accurate potency measurements and labeling are key to the industry’s success and growth. As one attendee told our reporter, “You wouldn’t accept it if you bought a bottle of Tylenol and it said ‘Take1 or 6 pills because we don’t know exactly how much active ingredient is in there,’ and we shouldn’t accept this from the cannabis industry either.”

Consumers and patients not only have the right to know the exact potency of the products they are ingesting, they have a need to know. With the wide range of strains on the market, including high CBD medicinals to high THC shatter, the industry must adopt the same technologies and standards used by the pharmaceutical and alcohol industries, where potency is clearly stated so that consumer can make informed decisions about their product choice.

The good news is that there are companies that provide testing equipment that deliver highly accurate potency measurements. Sage Analytics is one such company, and comes with an impressive heritage of 15 years providing highly vetted FDA approved potency testing devices to the pharmaceutical industry.

Other show highlights included the proliferation of quality CBD oil providers, and the new businesses that are providing banking services to the cannabis industry.

We hope that next year the show will not be in the Hilton. While a lovely grand dame of an establishment, it is too spread out and disjointed to host a large conference. Many exhibitors expressed frustration that the show’s multi-room layout resulted in most attendees visiting the first hall, but never making it way down the tunnel to the last hall. We witnessed a large variation in crowd size from hall-to-hall, with more than double the apparent number of people in the first hall to the last.

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